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Estimating the cost of a shoot

By April 12, 2018 Photography No Comments

When an advertising agency or client gets in touch about a job or campaign they have coming up, they will ask if you are available and interested in submitting a bid for it.


This is your opportunity to ask a lot of important questions. The more details you get in this preliminary call or email, the better equipped you will be to give an estimate for the job. Some agencies and clients will get bids or estimates from a few different photographers before making a decision.

Be sure to ask when they would like the estimate. Much of the time, they need it quickly! Try not to give a ballpark amount over the phone, tell them you will consider all elements and get back to them on the numbers once you’ve had time to work on it. Sometimes you will go back and forth with the client about rates. Negotiating is part of the process.

Hiring an estimating consultant

Putting together an estimate can seem like one of the most daunting tasks of the job, but it doesn’t have to be. When you start out, you might find that you have no idea how to price a job. In which case, it might benefit you to hire a consultant who specialises in pricing and estimates for photographic commissions. These consultants charge an hourly rate. It usually takes just a couple of hours to accurately estimate a job and it’s well worth the cost.

The process used by the consultant can educate you on how to estimate, ask the right questions, and use estimating software effectively.

These are some of the questions that you should consider asking when attempting to construct an estimate. They are taken from the guidelines on the Agency Access website.

The brief

  • What is the concept for the shoot?
  • What is the target demographic?

The images

  • How many are needed? (Later you will need a detailed shot list.)
  • What look and feel are you hoping to achieve?
  • What format? (i.e., portrait or landscape, TIFF or other, on hard drives or transferred?)
  • What dimensions? (i.e., size and resolution.)
  • Are there any layout requirements? Do you need to leave space for text?
  • Will you be doing the retouching and post-processing?

The shoot

  • Will it be in a studio or on location? (If on location, you may need to factor in travel costs.)
  • Do they have a location in mind or will the job involve location scouting?
  • Catering: How many people from the agency and client side will be attending? Are there any special dietary requirements?

The team

  • Will they require you to put together your own team? (Including stylists and assistants.)

The talent

  • What are the talent specs? (Includes race, age, budget, agency, non-agency, or ‘real life’.)
  • What type of casting? In person or online?

The budget

  • You will need to consider whether the client is an ad agency, a brand, an editorial client, or a consumer client (i.e., an individual or small business).
  • Ask if there is a set budget or if they want you to estimate the job first.

The timeframe

  • What is the proposed production date?
  • When do they need the estimate?

Image usage

  • How will the image(s) be used? Consumer ad, trade ad, packaging, direct mail, billboards, catalogues, and will this be single use or multiple use?
  • What is the area of circulation: Local, state, regional, national, international?
  • What is the size of the print run?
  • What is the duration of license?

Before working out your estimate, also consider what the job will mean for you.

  • How difficult will it be?
  • What challenges will there be?
  • Do they want you for your particular style or vision?
  • How did they hear about you? Word of mouth, online search, a specific campaign?
  • What type of credit and ownership do you require? Think about credit lines and copyright. Depending on what licensing options you agree to, you may be restricted in how you can use the images.

Fashion and Lifestyle Photography is Dixie Dixon’s guide to becoming a stand-out fashion and lifestyle photographer, and succeeding in the commercial world. Dixie is a Nikon brand ambassador and highly successful photographer who loves to share her knowledge and experiences to help you find your vision and realise your potential.

Fashion and Lifestyle Photography, Dixie DixonFashion and Lifestyle Photography
Dixie Dixon

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